Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The NJ Super Spartan....the VT Spartan Beast....and then....

The Super...the Beast...and then???!!!...   Well, before I start worrying about "and then...", I better keep focused on that Beast this Saturday.  Back in January of this year, I declared this the "Year of the Beast".  My intentions then were to run a series of races and train enough to start...and finish...the Spartan Beast in Vermont.  At that point this race was so far in the future and I supposed an unrealistic goal.  It's hard to believe though,  that I'm just a few days from not only achieving this goal, but fulfilling my Spartan Trifecta and (through some undiscovered fault in their ranking methodology no doubt) placing very near the top of my age group in the 2013 points race.'s a long way from some tough talk last winter.

One of the big fact, the biggest one in my mind, was always going to be the NJ Super Spartan.  It was going to be my first and only Super on hilly terrain...and this coming only two weeks before the Beast.  To have any chance at completing the Beast, I knew I would have to have a decent performance at the Super.  Decent for me, of course [read: finish!].  The morning of the Super arrived and I was up around 4am.  Little sleep the night before and hobbling around on two bad feet...courtesy of what exactly, I haven't quite figured out.  I had never bailed on a race yet, but I decided that there was no way I could drive 2+ hours and then run that race.  So I made one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make.  I was going to skip the race.

The more I thought though, the more I realized that it wasn't just the Super I was giving up on.  Not running the Super meant I would be going into the Beast with absolutely no idea of where my performance level was.  Not counting the Miami Super (heat does NOT make up for flat), I hadn't run more than 4-5 miles on this sort of terrain.  I knew I wouldn't be comfortable tripling the distance...and in all likelihood, that would mean passing on the Beast as well.  Seriously, giving things a shot is one thing, but skipping work and spending time and money on a crazy idea made no sense at all.  Somewhere though, in the next 30 minutes, I realized I had to try (see Yoda on "trying").  In a way, the whole season was riding on this.  All the effort for the entire year...all the hours of training...not to mention all my big talk...was geared toward the Beast...and the Super was the key.

So off I went.  Bad wheels and all.  I hobbled to the venue shuttle bus...hobbled through registration and all the way to the starting line.  And just under 4 hours later...somehow...I managed to cross that finish line.  Only people who have experienced this can truly know the feeling.  When you complete something that you really, deep down in your heart, didn't believe was possible.  And this was no easy course by any stretch.  It had all the usual obstacles, plus a couple of my personal favorites [yes, that's seething with sarcasm if you missed it!] that pop up here and there.  But I think the most unusual thing for me was something that I came to take for granted...and that is probably the biggest mistake to make.  Every Spartan race I'd done had a long, steep climb right off the start (leave out the steep for Miami).  After that, the climbs tended to be much shorter and interlaced with obstacles and downhills.  So when I hit this tortuous, never-ending climb midway through, I had to tip my hat to Spartan between the gasps and curses of course.

So, having only just now booked a hotel for it, I've resigned myself to the fact that I really am going to tackle this Spartan Beast.  It's the only race that I won't be driving back and forth the same day.  First, it's just too far away to realistically drive to on race day.  Second, I can't even imagine trying to drive 5-6 hours back after the race...whether I finish or not.  No...even driving the next day will likely be a challenge.  So Norm Koch is getting the Beast ready for me...and I am doing what I can to be ready for the Beast.  What comes after isn't even a thought any more.  The only thing that's important right now is being prepared.  It will be the longest, toughest race course I've ever been on...maybe tougher than any course there is, except the ultra-beast.  Certainly it will be more than just the climax to an incredible year of racing, it will also be the test of will I've been waiting to face.  And they'll be filming this??!!  Yes, I can honestly say...bring it on...I'm ready...ready for my closeup Mr. DeMille!!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Summer of 2013...and why I haven't been blogging...or training...

Since my last blog on the Spartan Sprint at Tuxedo, the summer took a turn for the incredibly busy.  Between then and now: I've run two Spartan races; helped build the course at another; driven my daughter and my grandkids back and forth from Florida; been sick twice; and went on some great outings with my kids and grandkids...including an epic trip into Manhattan.  Oh...and in between I did just a bit of real estate work and prepared to move again.  Unfortunately, this left very little training time in there!  Other than that, it was just a typical summer.  Ironically, my first trip to a NY beach will probably be this Wednesday (although I will admit to a trip to South Beach...the price of the Florida always!)
Since there's been so much going on, I won't try to detail the entire race this time around.  The first race I ran after Tuxedo was the Spartan Sprint in Palmerton, PA.  Although this would be my 6th race, it would be my first non-stadium race other than Tuxedo.  Well, not counting Miami...although that was the longer Spartan Super and the temperature was a factor there, the lack of any serious elevation change made it a much easier race for me overall.  Anyway, the PA course was everything I had expected...and a bit more.  The initial hill climb was typical of all Spartan races...brutal.  Add to that the sandbag carry over the last part of the climb and you are bordering on terms of pure torture anyway. 
Unfortunately for me, about 20 yards into that sandbag carry, I got a back spasm.  Yes....the word "sucks" comes quickly to mind...along with several others.  I knew immediately that this was a result of my modified (read: ignored) training schedule all summer.  So there I was.  Moving about ten baby steps at a time up this slope, and all the time thinking that I've still got 90% of the course to go still...assuming of course that I can even make it up this hill.  All I could think of was what would Tom Hanks do?  NO....not in Forrest Gump, the one where's there's no crying..."There's no crying in OCR!"  So, the short of it is, I didn't drive two hours plus to crawl off that damn mountain and limp home.  Although I had a few spots where it was still difficult, I did manage to finish.  Even though I think the first climb was tougher at PA, overall I still feel that Tuxedo was more challenging over the entire course.  I admit, I'm biased about that...Tuxedo was my first OCR race and will forever be that which all else is measured.  And no, the word "easier" does NOT even enter the conversation! 
Although I did manage to get some formal training sessions in during the early summer, there were some informal ones.  Like the trip into Manhattan.  During that marathon day I would take every opportunity to run up any stairs...usually at the subway stops.  And of course always carrying the pack and stroller.  One particular climb comes to mind, when I challenged my 4 year old grandson to a up the stairs and him up the escalator with my daughter.  It was only after throwing down the gauntlet that I looked up to see of stairs.  Again, words like "oh, shit" came to mind very quickly.  Yes, I did it...and yes, I needed oxygen at the top...but at least I made it a race.
We also had another chance for some sprint training that evening.  After taking the train back to Long Island, we were down at street level and heading toward the van.  I issued another challenge (yeah...I know, but learning lessons is often lost on me).  I shouted, for my grand daughters, that "first one to the car gets to drive home!".  Obviously I was watching them like a hawk...this was NOT a race I would let them win...they'd have me in court on breach of a verbal contract or something!  Well, they never made a move.  The words hadn't finished coming off my lips though, when junior (aka my grandson) took off like a cruise missile toward the car...running back and forth off the curb towards his first chance to drive!!  And here we go again...trying to beat a four year old, still carrying the pack and stroller and at the same time, trying not to run him over in his unintentional serpentining.  Now THAT was fun!

So, as of this writing I've already run the Spartan Super in NJ.  That story will have to wait until my next time.  Meanwhile, nursing the continuing ailments, I'm readying myself for the final goal of this year...the Spartan Championship Beast in VT on Sept 21st.  While I still have a healthy respect for it, I no longer fear it.  After the NJ race I'm confident that I can finish!  Exactly how or in what shape?...who knows.  In preparation for this, I have adopted the following as my official song for the Beast.

With it or on it...those are the only choices for this race!